The journey within

10527388_10203856120219799_4946734703162978337_nIt’s been six months since I have written a post here. For that, I apologize. But, to be fair, it has also been six months since I’ve done much adventuring to speak of.

It has been a long winter indeed.

Shortly after my last post, I started graduate school at University of Colorado Boulder. Everyone knows that grad school gobbles up hours pretty effectively, leaving little time for intrepid capers.

Not that I could do much capering anyway, given my current physical state.

In October, I had surgery on my right hip. Turns out hip surgery is sort of a big deal, and managing school, work and recovery was a lot to cope with. Then, in January, I had surgery on my left hip. Turns out bilateral hip surgery is really a big deal. Long story short, I had bone spurs in my hips that, over time, had destroyed a lot of the soft tissues in my hips (ligaments, labrums, capsular tissue, etc.) Fortunately my cartilage was still in good shape, or I would have been in trouble (best case scenario: double the recovery time). Both operations caused my body significant trauma and some very unpleasant adverse reactions, but overall I came out alive and kicking on the other side.

Six weeks after surgery number two, I’m still using a crutch to walk more than a block or two. Ugh. That makes it pretty difficult to do much adventuring.

However, medical obstacles create another sort of journey, I’ve found (and no, this is not my first surgical rodeo). When we are faced so immediately with our own physical fragility, we are given a wonderful opportunity to journey within.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been fiercely independent. I would routinely eschew the help of adults, trying just about anything on my own before seeking assistance. In many ways, I’m still like that.

I think this independence comes from an understanding that, in the end, we’re all alone. When push comes to shove, we must be able to rely on ourselves. Even those people we are closest to, the people we lean most heavily on, can falter or disappear unexpectedly through no fault of their own.

This is not to say that we should not ask for help when we need it, or that we should not seek nurturing, supportive relationships. I am blessed to have a wonderful and steady partner, and we both provide much support for each other. But my understanding of self-reliance is what makes it so hard for me to be dependent.

I do not relish being physically compromised. I abhor requiring help for mundane tasks, such as dressing myself or showering. My worst fear, I think, is living in a state of dependency. But confronting this fear has its benefits. First, I had to allow myself to be vulnerable (not something I excel at) and to ask for help from friends, family, and strangers. Second, I was forced to acknowledge my own physical frailty (we are all only flesh and bone, after all), and the very real potential that I will at times be dependent on others. And lastly, being physically compromised has allowed me to better understand those for whom disability is not a temporary condition.

In short, this process engendered in me a deeper compassion for myself, for those who support me, and for those folks who are so often ignored and marginalized because of their physical limitations. There is always light, even in the darkest of places.

For now, I diligently complete my daily physical therapy routine, and try to get in the pool for lap swimming a couple times a week. My legs have atrophied noticeably, but they are slowly regaining strength.

By summer, I should be ready for some adventuring, albeit a little gentler than I’m accustomed to. Tentatively on the docket: New York, New England, San Diego, and a western road trip up through CA, OR, WA, ID, MT, WY and back home to Colorado. I should be able to do some light hiking and easy climbing along the way. Fingers crossed.

And I will have a refreshed appreciation for all the things my fragile human body can do.


Have you faced significant physical obstacles in your life? How did you cope with recovery and the issues that arose for you?

PS – If you’d like to read more about my hip situation, you can hop over to External Rotation.


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